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Posts Tagged ‘virtual worlds’

When I was in the eighth grade, my buddies would come over almost every day after school to my parent’s apartment to play the board game, RISK.  It became a ritual and soon the topic of conversation between us, each day at lunch and recess.  In fact, one time three or four female classmates came to the apartment, pleading for us guys to give up the game and spend some time with them.  We said, “no way!”  Ah, the decisions we make!

I’ve always been a fan of games, the more complex the better.  I’ve played board games, cards, Dungeon and Dragons.  I enjoy the social interaction, the elements of fantasy.  After all these years it shouldn’t be a surprise that I would take my filmmaking experience and put it to use in video games, but it wasn’t until last year when my company, Unconventional Media produced the live action portions to the Electronic Arts (EA) video game, “Need for Speed: Undercover” that I really began to understand the tremendous possibilities of video games and interactive storytelling.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo, simply known as E3, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  Presented by the Electronic Software Association, this is the event where new games and gaming inventions are unveiled each year.  The roll-out was impressive, the technology amazing.  I was in awe of the big LED televisions displaying such realistic, spot on graphics.  However, what really caught my attention this year is the amount of immersive game play devices being released.  Nintendo introduced a device, the Wii Vitality Sensor, that clips to a player’s index finger and reads their pulse into the game.  This is the same company that has been so successful with the Wii Fit, which helps a game player lose weight by bouncing on a board that feeds the movements into game play.  Basically, your movements are the game characters movements, so if the game requires your character to run or jump, then you, the player must do the same.  A hell of a workout.  Ubisoft Entertainment introduced a competitive, more serious fitness title, “Your Shape” that actually customizes the workout based on body type.

However, the Project Natal for the XBox really knocked me over.  You’ve got to watch the YouTube video attached to really understand the interactive possibilities.  You can fully immerse yourself into a virtual world.

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As I wrote in this blog last October, after the “E for all Expo,” the philosophy behind my company, Unconventional Media, is to deliver a fresh angle for new entertainment, incorporating movie storytelling into game play.  This seems to be a growing, exciting trend in the business, although much of it remains tied to feature film releases like “Batman,” “Watchman,” “Harry Potter,” etc..  I do admit it was fun to stand next to the original Ghostbusters Ecto-1 vehicle, parked outside to promote the Ghostbuster Video game. I believe with the immersing technology of virtual game worlds, we can create storylines to form a new kind of entertainment.  It’s like my fictional screenplay, “Press>Play” as reality.  We enter the story, virtually.

Since I’ve always enjoyed the social aspects of game play and find the solo aspects of most video games a little lonely, like playing Solitaire, you’d think I’d be a big fan of online gaming. I’m fearful that getting involved in games like “World of Warcraft” and other multi-player online activities will become such an addiction that I’ll never go outdoors again.  Hell, I won’t even play “Mafia Wars” on Facebook.  However, after viewing the EA and LucasArts upcoming release, “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” a multiplayer, online game based on the franchise, but set in a different time period, I may be hooked.

After a couple of days of the loud noises and visual attacks of E3, I had to make an escape. I sat down with some friends and played “Joan of Arc,” a good old fashioned board game.  The game takes place during the 100 year war between England and the provinces of France.  There are castles, battles, land grabs, even the plaque, but there are also alliances between players, negotiating between teams, the human element.  I miss this part of game play in video games.  Sometimes, it just feels like it’s you against the machine.  I like the social interaction. Maybe, I’m just a board game geek.  Anyone up for a game of RISK.

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ceeI just finished watching David Merrill from MIT demonstrate cookie-sized, computerized tiles called Siftables that can be stacked and shuffled in your hands.  Anyone, even a young child, can do math, play music, and interact with their friends with these amazing digital blocks.  I watched in awe at TED.com.  The next generation of the computer and communication.

The yearly Technology, Entertainment & Design conference, now in year seven, is an amazing gathering of Today’s real thinkers.  This year’s conference, which was just recently posted on their Website, was once again filled with incredible inventions and new thoughts on issues that affect our world today.  If you don’t know much about TED, I highly recommend seeing Daphne Zuniga’s documentary on the 2006 conference, “The Future We Will Create: Inside the World of TED.”  A review can be found on my friend Stefan Rhys blog, Signal>Noise.

Although I haven’t actually been to a TED conference, I did recently have the opportunity to go to two other forward thinking conferences.  A few weeks ago, I joined director/producer Nicole Torre of New Angle Media at the GoGreen Expo and was impressed with the advances and possibilities for a better, greener future.  I was raised on Earth Day and traditional American Indian philosophy (see my upcoming documentary project, “Witness Trees“), so a lot of this was as old as when Jimmy Carter was President talking “Green,” but it is wonderful that the masses are finally stepping out of their SUV’s for a better, cleaner planet.  I firmly believe that anyone looking for a job and with the new Economic Stimulus Bill, “Green” is the future.  If you’re interested check out Earthprotect.com.  That’s why I was at the conference promoting Unconventional Media and why I decided to help produce Nicole Torre’s upcoming documentary, “Houston, We Have a Problem.”  It’s a feature film on the energy crisis from the perspective of the Houston oil man.   We’re in the final stages of post production, research clearances, music rights, but if anyone wants to hang their hat on an important film, we sure could use the pocket change.

Last weekend, I attended the Conscious Life Expo.  Once again, I was impressed with this wave of spiritual thinking and world peace.  People were truly promoting change for our planet.  Now I admit there were a few “weird” and wild ones at the conference and I met more psychics in one day then I’ve ever met in all my years working with the International Society of Paranormal Research (ISPR).  I’m certain we can now cast our show “Psychic Boot Camp” for the Paraplex in New Orleans.

We were at the Expo to capture an exciting, upcoming DVD for BrandU’s Conscious Entrepreneur Experience.  I’ve known W. Vito Montone and Kim Castle of BrandU for a long time.  These guys know what they are talking about when it comes to understanding your business as a creative universal expression, regardless of the product or service offered.  Much of what they cover in their lectures and workshops has been the inspiration for me in my own creation of Unconventional Media.  It was Kim Castle and her insights that created the original Eric Mofford logo.

This DVD will explain and show the greater path to financial freedom and personal fulfillment.  “CEE” can almost guarantee the growth and profitability of your business while still making a powerful and positive impact on the world.
Kim and Vito have always been ahead of their time with new ideas.  Kim has been helping clients with their company identity for over twenty years.  Vito has spearheaded projects for Disney Interactive and created the first Virtual Convention for Star Trek, among many other projects.  I remember Vito and I getting together and talking about the possibilities of interactive media, kiosk point of sales and brand marketing in Atlanta in the late 1980’s when no one would listen.  This DVD not only includes their own knowledge and expertise, but includes a TV talk show format featuring irreverent and witty interviews by Kim with multi-million dollar conscious entrepreneurs, Spike Humer, Marcia Miller and Joe Sugarman.  The live music was supplied by the wonderful techno artist Coco O’Connor.
These guys took risks and succeeded, an inspiration for any business, be it independent filmmaking or bracelets like the “I Love Bracelets” launched by Marcia Miller out of her apartment while pregnant with her first child.  Since its inception, “ILB” has sold more than 2 million bracelets, earrings, and necklaces, exclusively to more than 7,000 retailers, gift stores and fashion boutiques.  Mr. Humer has been the behind the scenes life coach for several of the world’s leading experts in the field of personal and business development.  He has hands-on experience leading both public and private companies throughout North America.

I’ve got to admit my favorite was Joe Sugarman, who created BluBlocker Sunglasses and ran JS&A (forerunner of  Sharper Image), a highly successful mail-order company in the 1980s, the largest supplier of innovative electronic products in the U.S.  He pioneered many of the sales and marketing techniques widely used today, as well as introduced household products like the calculator, cordless phones, and digital watches to the world.  His world-class drive, business acumen, insatiable curiosity, and uncanny ability to tap the buying mind, keeps him ahead of the pack and always forging new frontiers.  This guy didn’t always succeed, but he was always willing to chase the dream.

The Conscious Entrepreneur Experience DVD is going to be a valuable tool for anyone ready to start or rethink their own business.  The whole experience was an incredibly worthwhile experience for me.  I guess it will soon be available at Intention Products.  I truly believe I had a rare opportunity to hear and see two speakers before they present at a future TED conference, and for that I feel privileged.  These are amazing times indeed.

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Michael Catalano and Eric Mofford greet guests at opening.

Michael Catalano and Eric Mofford greet guests at opening.

Last Tuesday, October 14th, Unconventional Media, in conjunction with PLA Media, officially opened the Southern office, Unconventional South.  Pam Lewis, a public relations and marketing guru with over twenty years experience, opened her doors at the PLA Media building on Music Row to welcome my partner Michael Catalano and I to the agents, music publishers, record executives and other dignitaries of Nashville, Tennessee.  Fun was had by all, or at least by me.  Pam served a home cooked meal and “Unconventional” Sangria.  Videos from UM’s most recent production “Need for Speed:Undercover” and the first film Michael and I worked together on, “Travelin’ Trains” played in the background accompanied by the music of jazz maestro, Denny Jiosa.  Unconventional South is a full service production company handling the small corporate job to the large New Media production.

Most of the talk at the opening was about discovering new ways to build audiences and sell music.  There is so little independent radio these days that artists and labels are finding it difficult to get any airplay.  I’m a firm believer that if you build an audience, they will buy the music, but how to build that audience was a topic of much debate.  I think the right approach is to use the many internet networks available like MySpace, FaceBook, etc and add music documentaries, music videos, viral videos.  Everything about the artist should have a music soundtrack.  The songs are associated with the musician.  This will lead to downloads and purchases.

I also like the idea of virtual cafes, Cafe Sonique is just one of many.  The idea is a band or singer performs live at a certain time in a virtual world.  Anyone in the world can get on the internet and see the performer live.  Just like any other performance, CD’s (and in this case, downloads) are made available for purchase at the show.  The hardest part is getting an audience to discover the musician in the first place but the same holds true for independent films and documentaries.  It takes marketing and word of mouth.  Part of any budget these days has to cover the costs of getting the word out virally on the internet and in the press, because otherwise the money spent for the videos, documentaries or for a virtual live performance is wasted money.

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I’m on the radio.  Check it out.  I join the program about five minutes into the show.

Blogtalkradio.com

Wayne Clingman is the host.  He calls his show “Indy Film Wisconsin.”  Originally, I think the idea of the program was to promote Film projects in the State of Wisonsin including their film incentives! But like so many things with the web, it has expanded.  We cover many of the ideas and issues on this site.

You can contact Wayne at:
wclingman@wi.rr.com

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I’m seeing more and more “webisode” television and it reminds me of my days in Los Angeles theater.  It’s up there, not as a staged experience or to even just entertain, but as a showcase.  The creator is actually hoping someone will discover their series and put it on Network television.  It’s content for the wrong medium.

In 2002, when I co-produced the documentary series “Senior Year” with David Zeiger for PBS, I also produced a series at KCET, based on the television show for the web.  At the time, our biggest challenge was how to make the series accessible and easy to view on home computers.  I faced those same problems when I presented my political narrative webseries “Unconventional.”  These days we’re past access and viewing issues, but I still haven’t made a dime from any of my webisodes.

I continue to develop webisodes and related content.  I’ve come to believe these two things:

1) that there is too much good free entertainment on the internet to expect anyone to pay for your webseries unless you’re Joss Whedon.

Sorry, but someone sends me a link, I usually take a few moments to see what they’ve created, but not if I have to pay on my credit card or Paypal.  I even hesitate if I have to enter my email and become a “member.”

2) Unless you don’t care about the costs (and this could be because you’re putting up the webisodes hoping to eventually sell the series to television, you know as a “showcase” of your incredible talent) you’ve got to find an advertising sponsor ( see reason #1).

Now, that’s not always easy, but take some time to figure out the marketing of your work.  In a recent issue of Hollywood Reporter, IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller talks about the Web as being in just the early stages of its potential as an advertising medium.  He doesn’t see banner advertising having any real success and believes Video ads will be targeted and interrupt programming, as well as playing before and after the content.  I’m seeing this happen more and more.  I don’t know about you, but as a filmmaker I hate a show being interrupted when I watch it on television and I certainly will hate it on the web, especially if it is my show.  However, if that is what it takes to get the money to produce the programming, then I’ll bite my lip and shut up.

So what’s a solution.  Well, after producing the live action elements to the upcoming EA video game “Need for Speed:Undercover,” I’m convinced that it is a waste of money to make webisodes look and feel like short three-four minutes of regular television.  Instead, it needs to be a whole different form of entertainment, a mixture of interactive gaming, virtual worlds, comedy, music, etc.  The viewer needs to say, “wow, I couldn’t have seen that being done any other way.”  You’ve got to want to stay at the web site and explore.  Then the banner ad does work on the site because it is not ignored but becomes part of the experience.  You can even have a commercial, not in the content of the video, but in the interactive content.  This stuff requires a lot of thought and planning, but I’m seeing some great cross-over.  I think it’s evident on the Need for Speed and Which Road to Take sites.

We’re developing some of these ideas (still very much in development) on the PressPlayMovie site, with ChanneledObsession.com as the marketing portion.  On all these sites, things keep changing so the site becomes more interactive and worth a return visit.  You build on that.  It can’t be just a new episode of television, it’s got to be a bigger experience.

I’m very interested in any other thoughts on these ideas.

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